DUE TIME

Studying the Bible is unlike studying any other text, at least in my opinion. At first, it is exactly like studying any other written material. You discover the facts, determine the setting, identify the main characters, etc. Next you see spiritual lessons, truths and applications for Christians in general, the church as a whole and these are valuable and worth taking note of. But, then, there is a third dimension, one might call it, where you are reminded clearly that there is more for the person who is willing to be taught. If we will look carefully and listen intently, the Holy Spirit will make it personal. It is one of the remarkable results of sincere Scripture Study. Suddenly, this is not just a story about something or someone from long ago. This is not just a lesson for everyone. It is PERSONAL and your own spirit is quickened by the Spirit of God.

I know this to be the case because I have experienced it myself. Although I could try my best it would be difficult to explain fully what happens during that moment when you realize God is speaking to you, directly to you, from within the pages of ancient manuscripts. It is glorious. It is life changing.

Consider that as we consider Hannah, a well known woman in the Old Testament. Hannah’s story is told in the Bible in I Samuel chapters 1&2. For the first decade of my marriage I became fast friends with several Biblical Women and Hannah was one of them. I could relate to her. I took comfort from and was given hope by her story. She and I had a few things in common, after all.

So, what do we know about Hannah?
*She lived in the latter part of the period of the judges before there was a king in Israel.
*She was a woman of prayer.
*She was a barren woman.
*She was in a place of desperation.
*She was greatly loved by her husband
*She was taunted by other women.
*She was falsely accused, misjudged.
*She became the mother of Samuel, one of the greatest prophets and priests in Israel’s history.
*She kept her vow that she had made to God, so she was faithful and courageous.
*She wrote a beautiful prophetic poem/song that many believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus used as a pattern for her own Magnificat found in Luke 1.
*She is still inspiring and influencing people, just like me, today.

Now, she is isn’t the only woman in this story. So, what do you know about Peninah? Well, we know, wait…. Who? Chances are, that is exactly your response. Let me tell you what is known. Peninah was the other wife, she had everything that Hannah wanted so desperately and she took great joy in pointing that out. She had Hannah’s husband and she had been able to give him children. The full impact of this statement is lost on us in modern times. This was huge. This changed everything. This determined the future. And lastly, we know that Peninah was one of those women who knew how to use her mouth and her words to hurt and belittle a wounded and struggling soul.

Here’s the first ‘make it personal’ point I want to make. I’ll tell you just as plainly as I told my own children when we studied this passage together as a family. If you haven’t already encountered a Peninah, you will. You can count on it. The day will come when you will find yourself discouraged and disappointed and perhaps confused. You will find yourself in a season of waiting and praying and hoping for things to change. Right at the most vulnerable and painful time of your life when what you really need is an encouraging word, you will find yourself facing a Peninah. I want you to remember this lesson and that day remind yourself that Peninah is remembered for her poisonous words if remembered at all. It is Hannah that we recall and Hannah that made a lasting impact on the world around her. When that day comes just look them right in the eyes and say, “Peninah who?”

As we are introduced to Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1 we can get a good understanding of her and her struggle. We see that her husband loved her but, although he did his best to comfort her, he simply wasn’t enough. There are those times when no other human, no matter how much they care, can lift the heaviness on our hearts. We see that she knew where to go and who to ask for help. She went to the temple and prayed to God. Scripture tells us that she was in deep anguish and wept bitterly as she poured herself out before God. She was so grieved that ‘there were no words’ and although her lips moved, no sound was heard. Have you ever been there? Have you ever experienced pain that was so deep, so unfathomable, so overwhelming, that ‘there were no words’? Have you ever felt so desperate for things to change, for relief, for an intervention and an interruption in what seemed like a living nightmare that you couldn’t even bring yourself to say it out loud? If so, then you understand how Hannah felt.

If you’ve read her story, and I hope you have taken a moment to do so, you know how the rest goes. She has her encounter with God. She leaves that moment different than she came. She gets up, no longer downcast and gets something to eat (which she had not been able to do) and returns home. Here’s another personal point to take note of. What had changed? Was she suddenly with child? Did a baby magically appear in her arms? Did Peninah’s taunting cease? No, the circumstances had not changed. It was Hannah herself who had changed. Her perspective, her outlook, her attitude had been adjusted.

One translation says that in DUE TIME Hannah was given what she prayed for, the gift of a baby boy. If you only remember one thing of the many things I am writing today, remember those two powerful, potent, pivotal words DUE TIME. No matter what you are facing today, no matter where you find yourself tomorrow, DUE TIME is going to come. There is an appointed time when you will be on the other side of what seems like a impossible situation. I waited over a decade to see my due time when my aching empty arms were filled when we adopted for the first time. Don’t give up, don’t despair, DUE TIME is ahead.

Just when we think we’ve arrived at a happy ending in this story, Hannah now must draw on every ounce of strength and courage and fortitude within her to do whatshe promised she would do. She is going to give back to God whatHe gave to her. There is not one of us who would pretend for a moment that whatshe would do was easy or simple or painless. She had vowed to do what every mother eventually must do, release her child into God’s care. We all hope that day will be later rather than sooner and the result of a natural growth into adult independence. But, we are all fully aware that is not always going to be the case.

Exactly how old Samuel was when Hannah presented him to Eli at the temple is debatable. We do know that she kept him until he was weaned and took him when she felt he was ready. And here’s the other thing that we know. When she kept her vow and returned Samuel to God, she did so with a song of praise. Her poetic words are recorded in 2 Samuel and as I mentioned before, are believed by many to be the pattern for Mary’s Song. Hannah no longer found herself at a place where there ‘were no words’. The Lord had given her a song and the words flowed. That song came not when she had that initial life changing encounter, not when DUE TIME had arrived and she held her answer to prayer in her arms. Her song of praise flowed from her inner most being, a powerful prophesy when she gave back to God what He had given to her.

This is the question we must all ask ourselves. What will our song sound like? Who will we pattern ourselves after? Which words will we choose when facing difficult times? How will we respond? I pray that like Hannah, we will impact those around us With a song of praise, words of encouragement, a response of hope.

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Poured Out

Poured Out

This morning I came across this journal entry that I wrote in January of this year. This is one of those spiritual truths that is so deeply rooted into my very being that it influences the way I live my life.

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“And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10 AMP)

What is important to you, what do you need desperately to survive and sustain your own life? Are you willing to pour it out to meet the need of another? Perhaps even ‘the least of these’?

There is no more precious commodity in my life right now than time. I’m practically bankrupt when it comes to moments in the day. And although I must wisely prune away the unnecessary, the opportunity to invest in the life of a person needing a moment of love, understanding, council or a listening ear can never be counted as unnecessary.

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In other translations the ‘if you pour yourself out’ reads differently.
– if thou draw out thy soul KJV ASV
– if you pour yourself out ESV NLT
– if you spend yourselves NIV
– if you extend your soul NKJV

As I ponder this Scripture and think these thoughts I am reminded of a very powerful account of a woman facing desperate times. She was at the end of herself and her resources. Resolved to make one last meal for herself and her son before they perished she faced an alarming request to give that last little bit to another, to pour out what she needed.

First she was asked for a drink of water. Although there was a drought and water was hard to come by, the water didn’t ‘belong’ to her and she doesn’t seem to hesitate to share. But, when she is asked for bread, it gets personal and here is how she responds.

But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” (1 Kings 17:12 NLT)

I told you she was in a state of desperation! She was preparing to perish after she and her son had this last meal! I am thankful to say that I have never known such a state of physical hunger. I can’t always have what I want but, I have never gone without. However, I can relate to this mother on other levels. I sometimes feel just as bankrupt when it comes to emotional energy, physical strength and a seemingly constant time crunch.

Sometimes, just like this lady, I want to declare that I need what I have for my own family, my own children. Sometimes, I do. But, you see, I learned this a long time ago, if I save everything I have, every moment of time, every lesson I teach, every gift or talent I possess and pour it all into what is mine (my children/family), I will still never have enough or be enough for their needs. The smartest move I can make as a mother who feels hard pressed to provide for my own family is to pour myself out for others in need as the Lord gives me opportunity. Then, only then, can I be enough for these children & this husband that God has given me. Because it is then that I humble myself through obedience, giving what I so desperately need myself pouring myself out, extending my soul, spending myself when He asks me to.

She obeyed, bravely and likely with fear and trembling. Even though she protested at first, she sat aside her fear and hesitation and trusted God to be enough. And He was. When God saw her obedience, her faith, He provided what she could not because she gave what little he had to Him.

“There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:16 NLT)

At the end of each day when I lay my head on my pillow it is my goal to have poured it all out, to have emptied myself of my own resources, to have invested in hurting lives, to have fed a hungry soul, to have answered the the call, to have given what I can and then turn to Him for a refilling and refreshing so I can do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next. And at the end of my life I hope I can say the same words that Paul said at the end of his.

“As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:6, 7 NLT)

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There is Coming a Day

There is Coming a Day

Are you familiar with the old hymn, “There is Coming a Day”? I am. I have been thinking about it a lot the last couple of days. One of the verses includes these words written by Jim Hill and made popular in the 60’s in Southern Gospel.

“There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;”

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)

There is coming a day, I believe that, I truly do. But, that day is not today. Today we still face sorrow, despair, pain, sickness, disease, burdens, troubles and yes, there are plenty of tears. The last few days have been a stark reminder of this fact as a family we know and love have suddenly and tragically lost their son of 17. The night it happened I could not sleep; I could barely breathe. I prayed and cried and read my Bible until I was too exhausted to do anything else but lie in the dark. Tears still slipped down my cheeks as I tried to squeeze them back. I could not bear the thought of the enormous pain that my friend must be feeling.

I would have to tell my sons the next morning that they were parted from their friend. The looks of unbelief on their faces, the sobs, the questions, the shock will be etched in my memory for many years until perhaps the waves and weather of time lessen their raw edges and fade the imprint they have left.

I would attend a service at our church where we would gather together and share the grief that had barged into our lives unwelcome and uninvited. I would be firmly reminded of the great blessing of a Christian Body that has learned to work together during time of crisis, during terrible times just like this. There would be a message of encouragement, an abundance of wordless hugs and more tears. And yet, no matter how our hearts ached, we knew full well it was nothing at all compared to what our friends must feel.

They do not face this great loss alone. They are surrounded by a supportive and loving family. They are undergirded by a caring and ministering church body. They have friends. They have community. They have each other. While all of this is wonderful and while I know they are so thankful, if that is all they had it would still not be enough to face the days ahead. They do have enough, however, because they know that what man can never do even with the best of intentions and abilities, God can do. He is able. He is enough. God is enough.

I don’t know what you may be facing today or what I may face tomorrow or next week or next year. What I do know is I don’t want to face it alone. I know none of us have to. When the burdens of our lives are too heavy, when we are reminded that our load is too much, that we are not enough, we can choose to accept the comfort, strength and help the Lord offers.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28, 29 NIV)

It is that rest that we long for and so desperately need during the most fierce of battles. It is that rest that is sought by those struggling with addictions, broken marriages, shattered dreams, crushed hopes and wounded hearts. It is that rest that Jesus offers to us every day and even days like this.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NIV)

Wake Up

Wake Up

Last night I dreamed a disturbing dream. In this dream I found myself in situations that I can’t imagine I would ever really be in. But, regardless, in the midst of that dream, it all seemed very real. When I finally awoke, I was so relieved. I was aggravated with the me in the dream. Why hadn’t I seen the trap? Why had I chosen to under-react rather than over-react? What was I thinking? Was I thinking at all? How, even in a dream could I be so confused about what was really real? I washed my face in an attempt to make sure I was fully awake. I scowled at my own reflection in the mirror.

I wanted to go back to sleep but not to revisit that place in my dream. I had felt trapped, without options. I was doing what I thought I had to do. In that dream I had lost touch with reality. The only escape had been to WAKE UP!

That’s when the Lord spoke to me. Perhaps I should say he opened my eyes. Then again, perhaps I should say he awakened me to spiritual truth. Images, faces of people that I knew and people I didn’t know who were living lives that made no sense, that were against their very nature, that caused them not to even resemble their former selves any longer. I heard the Lord speak clearly. “They have to WAKE UP.”

My heart was heavy with compassion. They were trapped. They felt they had no options. They were doing what they thought they had to do. They were confused about what was really real. They had not seen the trap. They had chosen to under-react to the signs of danger. The unreality of their altered lives had provided an escape, an amusement, a sense of delight. Then a choice was made at some point to be lulled into a self-serving slumber that denied the reality of consequences and boundaries. Finally, their present unreality has become the only reality they can touch, hear, feel or see anymore. They are living the dream that most of us see as a nightmare.

They must WAKE UP. But, how can we awaken the sleepers?

1- Turn on the light. As the mother of teens I know that the first step in arousing a sleeper is to flip the switch,shock their senses and make them uncomfortable. Oh, they may try to pull the blanket over their heads but, that’s only the beginning of my strategy.

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
(Romans 13:11, 12 NIV)

2- Call unto them. In the case of one who has gone to sleep spiritually, call them back to what they have known. Call their names. Speak words of life and hope as you pray. Remember how Jesus called unto Lazarus?

“It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
(John 11:10, 11 NIV)

3- Shake them if necessary. In desperate situations inflict a little pain. If the house were burning down and someone we love were about to be consumed by those flames we would do whatever necessary to awaken them. We wouldn’t be worried about making them uncomfortable or embarrassing them or even breaking their leg if it meant they would WAKE UP and be saved. In the movies it sometimes takes a cold bucket of water in the face. Although never welcomed at the time, a stark, alarming awakening can serve a purpose when all else fails.

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14 NIV)

4- Try aromas to trigger memories, to gain attention, to create an appetite. No dream of eating crispy bacon can bring the same satisfaction that actually consuming that bacon can bring. Remind them of the emptiness of choosing the un-reality over reality.

“as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still.
(Isaiah 29:8a NIV)

5- Keep trying, keep praying, don’t give up. The sleep may seem as deep as a coma, as hopeless as a man dead and buried, as pointless, frustrating, discouraging as the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But, we can’t quit. They have to WAKE UP!

This Greek word eknēphō, appears one time only in the Bible. In I Corinthians 15:34 we see this word translated in the KJV as awake. It is defined –
to return to one’s self from drunkenness, become sober, to return to soberness of mind.

“Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.”
(1 Corinthians 15:34 NIV)